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Huntsman Cancer Institute to study how best to reach patients who could use genetic counseling

By Wendy Leonard, KSL | Posted - Nov 10th, 2018 @ 10:12pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A team of researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute was recently awarded a $5 million grant to study genetic counseling, genetic communication and genetic services to patients.

They will look at how best to find patients who might benefit from counseling, using electronic health records from 48 primary care clinics in two health care systems.

Patients who meet certain criteria will either be notified they are eligible for an appointment with a genetic counselor, or, they will be given educational resources and can ask about it on their own.

Researchers will compare the two models of delivering genetic services to determine which is most efficient, according to the cancer hospital.

"What we are doing is using the information that's already in the electronic health record to identify people who have not had cancer but who might have familial risk, particularly for breast and colorectal cancer," said Kimberly Kaphingst, a lead researcher and a professor of communication at the University of Utah.

Huntsman researchers will partner with scientists at New York University, which has access to a diverse patient population within its primary care system. The two systems will look closely at minority ethnic and racial groups, as well as people living in rural areas to find the best way to approach them about genetic counseling.

Access, researchers believe, continues to be a barrier for such groups. Though, there is "growing interest in genetic testing and learning about one's genetic makeup," said Wendy Kohlmann, a genetic counselor at Huntsman Cancer Institute and adjunct assistant professor in population health sciences, who is participating in the study.

The number of companies marketing genetic testing for ancestry and other purposes substantiates that interest.

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"This project will provide a pathway for patients who are interested in learning more about the genetic factors that may affect their cancer risk and to access that information with the support of genetic counselors and physicians in their health care system," Kohlmann said.

The study is funded by the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Moonshot, which was created in 2016 by then vice president Joe Biden. It aims to accelerate cancer research and increase access to treatment.

The $5 million will be awarded to the study over five years.

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